The Missouri women’s basketball team has faced a few daunting tasks this season. But a matchup with Texas Tech at 2:30 p.m. today in the Big 12 Conference Tournament quarterfinals at Reunion Arena in Dallas may loom as it’s largest this season.
It’s safe to say this is the biggest game of the season for both teams. The fourth-seeded Tigers (20-8, 10-6 Big 12 Conference) are not yet considered a lock for the NCAA tournament and a loss would severely damage hopes of making the field of 64.
The fifth-seeded Red Raiders (15-13, 9-7 Big 12) enter the tournament with a lot on their minds, too. Their leader and NCAA-coaching legend, Marsha Sharp, announced two weeks ago that she would retire at the season’s end.
“I knew the time was right for me,” Sharp said.
Earlier this season, Sharp was taken to a hospital in Norman, Okla., after suffering from shortness of breath during pre-game warm-ups. Eight days later, Sharp had an angiogram that suggested she might have blockage in a coronary artery. There were no problems found in the angiogram that suggested she had a problem with her arteries or that there was any heart damage.
She returned to her coaching duties on Jan. 28, the only meeting between MU and Texas Tech this season. The Tigers won 65-51 at Mizzou Arena.
When she announced her retirement, Sharp said her health was fine. Sharp enters the game with a career record of 283-95 record and a national championship on her lengthy list of career achievements.
A win against Sharp could be the difference for the Tigers to advance to the NCAA tournament. A loss and MU goes home with a lot of uncertainty.
Losing back-to-back games to finish the regular season has given MU a lot of tough things to think about, so coach Cindy Stein gave the team two days off after the last game.
“I think they deserve it,” Stein said after the Tigers’ loss to Nebraska. “I think they need it. I think they need to collect themselves. The Big 12 is a brutal schedule. We will bounce back.”
Players and coaches said bouncing back for MU has to start on the defensive end. The team’s defensive efforts were recognized last week with senior LaToya Bond and junior EeTisha Riddle being named to the conference’s all-defensive team. It’s that end where MU has prided itself on all season and it’s what Stein has pointed to in its recent struggles.